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Local MP makes maiden speech

Wairarapa electorate MP Mike Butterick, who won the seat with a 2816 majority from Labour’s Kieran McAnulty in last year’s general election, delivered his first speech in Parliament on Wednesday.

The Masterton-based sheep and beef farmer, who moved to Wairarapa more than 30 years ago, used all of the 15 minutes allotted to first-time MPs to make their ‘maiden speech’ to lay out the reasons someone from “from the hills of the Wairarapa” sought to represent an electorate that covers 11,860km2 and encompasses the regions of Wairarapa, Tararua, and Central Hawkes Bay, and to flag the issues he is particularly passionate about.

After acknowledging a number people at the start of his speech – including wife Rachel, children Jack, Annabel, Emma, and Charlotte, various supporters, and the three other sitting MPs with a connection to Wairarapa [Ikaroa-Rawhiti Māori MP Tangaere-Manuel, whose electorate has territory in common with Butterick’s, and McAnulty and Green list MP Celia Wade-Brown, who both live here] – Butterick stated what led him enter the arena of national politics.

“It was a deep despair at the direction we were heading in as a country, and the need for our provincial communities to be heard. You’re either at the table, or you’re on it, and it’s never much fun being part of the menu. Provincial New Zealand needs to be listened to and trusted.”

Not surprising, then, that the perception New Zealand’s farming community has increasingly been unappreciated – and even treated as a scapegoat – occupied a good portion of Butterick’s address to the House, including anecdotes about a dairy farmer who is reluctant to admit to his occupation in public, “kids getting bullied at school because their parents are farming”, and sheep and beef farmers weighed down by “legislative fatigue”.

Rattling off figures he said demonstrated that, contrary to widely-held opinion, farmers do seek to be responsible stewards of the land, he then took aim at “those that criticise them, those that flush the dunny without a thought about where it goes, in their plastic clothes, standing on their plastic carpet, that ignore their own impacts on the environment and would rather point the finger”.

Butterick also emphasised the crucial contribution the rural sector makes to New Zealand’s export earnings [82 per cent] and how this income “pays the wages of our teachers, our nurses, and our policemen”.

Education was the other main focus of the National MP’s speech, labelling it as “the pathway out of poverty, a pathway to employment, to being independent rather than dependent”.

“Our statistics are an indictment; our most challenged communities have been failed; we can’t even get them to school. Every day, every week, every month, is a day, a week, and a month that they’re behind their peers and behind the rest of the world,” he said, before referring to a Wairarapa school’s success in turning around its attendance issues “on their own back” and touting its “stunningly successful” programme as “a local solution for a nationwide problem”.

In closing, Butterick clearly laid out the personal philosophy that will presumably underpin his time serving in Parliament.

In terms of government, he favours less not more. “Our role is to solve problems, not create them, get the settings right, back up the bus, and leave people to get on with their lives.”

Also ticked off were the need for personal responsibility – “Everyone has rights, but they also come with responsibility” – and to celebrate success and hard work, as well as the importance of “strong families and caring communities”.

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